Sunderland Team News
Experienced defender Wes Brown returns to the squad following a calf problem which ruled him out of last weekend's draw at home to Swansea City. However, he may have to settle for a spot on the bench after John O'Shea and Santi Vergini helped the team to keep a clean sheet against the Welsh side.
Crocked loanee Sebastian Coates is definitely out with a worrying thigh injury, while playmaker Emanuele Giaccherini remains a doubt with an ankle knock that has been troubling him recently.
Stoke City Team News
Powerful striker Mame Biram Diouf misses out after pulling up during Monday night's win over Newcastle with a hamstring strain. Though the injury isn't as bad as first feared, he won't be ready to take part tomorrow.
Marko Arnautovic is favourite to replace Diouf in the forward line, while USA international midfielder Geoff Cameron could make a welcome return after five weeks on the treatment table with a hernia problem.
SAFC (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Jones, Vergini, O'Shea, van Aanholt; Cattermole; Johnson, Larsson, Rodwell, Buckley; Wickham.
SCFC (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Bardsley, Shawcross, Wilson, Muniesa; Whelan, N'Zonzi; Arnautovic, Adam, Moses; Crouch.
Key Match-Up: Connor Wickham v Ryan Shawcross
It's high-time for Connor Wickham to add goals to a series of satisfactory performances so far this season and Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross will be the man tasked with stopping him.
Wickham was absolutely flying at the end of last term, but has failed to strike in six league matches up to now. There are extenuating circumstances he could point to in explanation of that; he was played out of position at the beginning of the campaign and then a severe lack of chances created - prior to last weekend - has stopped him getting amongst the goals since resuming his favoured position up-front.
Shawcross would've been hoping for an England call-up from Roy Hodgson this week, but he missed out despite manager Mark Hughes talking up his chances recently and it'll be interesting to see if that affects his performance tomorrow. He's usually a strong, no-nonsense defender who won't give Wickham an inch if on top form.
However, if Wickham utilises his considerable frame and upper-body strength to good effect, then it could turn out to be a particularly uncomfortable afternoon for Shawcross on his 27th birthday.
Sunderland Recent League Form: DDD
Draw: Tottenham Hotspur (H) 2-2
Draw: Burnley (A) 0-0
Draw: Swansea City (A) 0-0
Stoke City Recent League Form: LDW
Loss: Leicester City (H) 0-1
Draw: Queens Park Rangers (A) 2-2
Win: Newcastle United (H) 1-0
Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-2 Stoke City (23/09/2014)
Sunderland took a 16th-minute lead at home to Stoke less than two weeks ago when drawn together in the Capital One Cup third round, but the Black Cats couldn't hold onto their advantage and eventually succumbed to a Marc Muniesa double in response.
American striker Jozy Altidore claimed his first goal of the season to put the hosts in front with a neat turn and shot from the edge of the area.
However, Spanish defender Muniesa struck back on the half-hour mark by putting the ball beyond keeper Costel Pantilimon at his near post.
He whacked home the winner in the 71st minute with his second of the evening, thus making a fine impression on manager Mark Hughes and earning the former Barcelona product a starting spot for the very next league match.
The Ref: Neil Swarbrick
Lancashire referee Swarbrick has already been in charge of a Sunderland fixture this season on the opening day of the campaign at The Hawthorns. He handed out four yellows during that match, including one in the direction of Sunderland defender Valentin Roberge.
He generally gives out a reasonable amount of yellow cards, with an average of 3.5 per game during last season. Meanwhile, the north-west official seems reluctant to send anyone off the field of play, with just one red shown during the entire 2013/14 campaign and once again so far this term.
What The Managers Said
"I think we are in good shape. It seems incredible we are saying this without a win but it is true.
"We’re not an easy team to play against and we are very competitive, getting stronger and taking more chances whilst adapting to the games.
"We need to make sure that little difference comes for us, and it will, because we keep on trying and insisting on the things that we believe.
"Stoke have got a very specific way of playing, so we need to be very aware because they have good players and a lot of power."
"I made changes for the Cup game – and so did Gus – but a number of the players who were involved that night will be involved again tomorrow.
"A win is a win; there’s always a little psychological edge to every game and we will try and use the fact that we’ve already beaten them at their place to our advantage.
"We know we’re capable of going up there and winning and we’re in a good place at the moment, particularly away from home.
"Having said that, we’ve got to be aware that they will be looking to make amends for their defeat in the Cup I’m sure, but the confidence we got from that – not only the result but the performance as well – will stand us in good stead."
Roker Report Predicts
Tricky one this: Sunderland emerged victorious in their last home league meeting with Stoke, but faltered after taking the lead in the Cup clash against the same opposition less than two weeks ago.
Stoke have looked strong away from home this season, with an impressive five points coming from their three league matches on the road so far, as well as knocking Sunderland out of the League Cup on 23rd September at the Stadium of Light.
Gus Poyet's men displayed some encouraging signs when conjuring more chances than usual against Swansea City in their last game, but failed to convert those opportunities through sheer wastefulness. However, the goals will arrive if they continue being brave enough to both create and burst into the box as often as they did last Saturday.
The home side's defence has been largely solid throughout the early part of the campaign and therefore it's painfully obvious where the main issues reside. However, Wickham and Fletcher both came incredibly close to breaking their Premier League duck for this campaign and it'll surely all come together if they retain that same level of persistence shown against the Swans.
I'm going for a 1-0 win for the Black Cats to finally put a Premier League victory on the board.